Category Archives: current events

Join me for a little birthday rant, won’t you?

Today is my fortieth birthday, which is all momentous and milestoney and stuff, but what I REALLY want to talk about today is the thing that pisses me off most about 40th birthdays, which is not the aging, or the “over-the-hill” party hats, or the mid-life crisis, or the pure physical decrepitude. No. The thing that pisses me off most about 40th birthdays is how many people still think that this is the birthday where women stop telling people how old they are. Like, this isn’t my 40th birthday, it’s the second anniversary of my 39th birthday! Or, I’m not 40, I’m 18 with 22 years experience! HAHAHAHAHAHA no.

Look, I know that a lot of people in my age cohort who make these kinds of statements are doing it in a jokey way. Or maybe it’s a post-hipster-ironic way, or something, but whatever, I don’t care, I still hate it, because FOR REAL, it’s 2011 and I’m STILL supposed to be ASHAMED of my AGE????!! I mean, let’s be honest, even if most of the people I know are saying it as a joke, it’s a funny-because-it’s true kind of joke, only I’m not sure what’s so funny about a culture that still sends the message that at a certain age you are less valuable/desirable/beautiful/vital/important/loveable/cool/etc. And of course when I say “you” I really mean “women,” since it’s still OK for men to get older, it’s just us ladeez whose value apparently starts dripping out of our vaginas covered in XX chromosomes once we hit the big 4-0.

Ahem.

So anyway, everybody’s gotta do their own thing, I get it, and if feigning shame about your age (or actually being ashamed of your age) is what helps you get through the day, then … you do that. But personally, I have earned every goddamn one of these years, and I’m not going to shortchange myself by so much as a single month. I am FORTY, motherfuckers. Happy birthday to ME.

Forty!

Walking the line

On Sunday a major tornado came through Minneapolis and devastated several blocks in North Minneapolis neighborhoods. Our south Minneapolis home was blessedly spared, but the pictures and stories have been all over Facebook and the news, and we have friends within blocks of the destruction. At my ECFE class this morning, we were talking about disaster preparedness and how to talk to your kids about these kinds of events. I shared this list of things to do to prepare for a major disaster, and we all nodded our heads and murmured about what a good idea that was and how we all really needed to put some of that stuff in place. And then we talked about how we never had any awareness of stuff like this when we were kids, and was that because there weren’t as many disasters (hi, global warming!) or because our parents were less paranoid than we were or what? And it got me to thinking about how so much of what I think of as good parenting is finding a way to walk the line between anxiety and neglect. I mean, do you have yearly fire drills with your family, because: Safety! Or do you just install smoke alarms and assume that everything will be all right? Because, statistically speaking, of course, it probably WILL be all right. But, you know, I still make my kids wear seat belts and hold my hand when they cross the street.

Of course, this sense of walking a line isn’t limited to safety issues. I have the same sense of precarious balance when it comes to, say, gender issues with my two girls. For a long time, the Hatchling was completely uninterested in all things pink and princessy, for example. I mean, this is the kid who has been, respectively, a ladybug, Yoda, a cowboy, and a tornado for the last four Halloweens. But then she went to preschool. Or maybe it was just turning four, or maybe I let her listen to too many Broadway soundtracks – anyway, whatever the reason, she is now TOTALLY into the whole glitterlicious girl complex. Asked what she wanted for decorations on her 5th birthday cake this year, she said, and I quote, “ponies, unicorns, dolphins, and rainbows,” which also happens to be a comprehensive list of the contents of my 5th grade puffy-sticker album. I’ve talked with friends of mine who have girls the same age, and we’re all in the same quandary. On the one hand: Feminism! Woman power! Realistic body images! Fuck the patriarchy! Etc. But on the other hand, Choice! Support kids for who they are! Embrace multiplicity! Etc. Which is to say, yes, dammit, Barbie makes me fucking uncomfortable on every level, but if that’s where my kid is right now who am I to say that’s wrong?

That strangled sound you’re hearing right about now would be my mother choking on the words “You’re her PARENT, that’s who!” See, when I was growing up, there were lots of things that were off limits in our house for specifically feminist reasons. We weren’t allowed to watch The Flintstones or The Jetsons, for example, because of the problematic way they represented the role of women. (TV in general was both rationed and heavily weighted toward PBS.) And Barbies were RIGHT. OUT. Dolls were OK, and we could – and did – play dress-up Queens and Princesses to our hearts content. Hell, the first book I ever memorized was a little golden book version of Disney’s Cinderella, which ain’t exactly the most feminist story in existence. But the closest I ever got to a Barbie was a Princess Leia doll, who, while pretty stacked, was acceptable because a) she had flat feet like a normal person, and b) hello! Princess Leia is the shit! And I loved that Leia doll, don’t get me wrong, but I also yearned – YEARNED – for a Barbie doll. So while I totally and completely get why they were off limits, and my mom was really good about explaining exactly why she wouldn’t let me get one, I’m also pretty sure that they were way more important to me because they were off limits than they would have been if they hadn’t been forbidden fruit.

I guess what it all comes down to is that we all draw our lines where we’re comfortable drawing them, and if we’re conscientious about morals but also sensitive to cultural pressures, that can result in some arbitrary-ass line-drawings. So in our house, barbies are a non-starter, but the Disney Princess dolls are OK. (I know. Totally irrational.) I’ll let the girls watch Tangled and The Little Mermaid until they have the complete score memorized (with gestures!), but The Biggest Loser will air in my house over my dead, fat body. I’ll talk with them about feminism and self-respect and kindness and empowerment until their eyes roll back in their heads. I will strongly encourage them to read Louisa May Alcott, and I will pitch the mother of all fits if they want to read Ayn Rand. (Or at least if they want to read her uncritically.) I will happily embrace life partners of any race, color, creed, gender or ethnicity, but if they vote Republican I might have an aneurysm. And, of course, I reserve the right to redraw those lines whenever I see fit, because I’m still figuring this parenting tightrope out, dammit, and I might need to reroute myself occasionally.

So how about you? Where do you draw your lines? Does it feel like a tightrope to everyone, or just to those of us with a tendency toward neuroses? Lay it on me, y’all.

Angry

Last night the House of Representatives passed comprehensive health care reform, and this morning the liberal interwebz are all a-twitter with happy, giddy, messages. We finally passed something! Yay for Obama! Yay for progressives! I get that response, and I really, really, REALLY wish it were my own. Because I am so glad that this legislation gives coverage to so many more people, and puts in place truly important reforms on the insurance industry, and safeguards the health of millions of children. I really am glad about that.

But I just can’t quite get to my happy place, because this important, historic legislation was made possible only by throwing reproductive choice under the proverbial bus. While the Stupak amendment didn’t make it into the bill, the Nelson compromise did, and that is bad, bad news for anyone who cares about reproductive rights. So while I would love to be doing happy dances of joy about passing health care reform, I find that what I really am is angry. I’m angry that Democratic legislators and presidents are so willing to cave on this issue, that it so easily becomes a bargaining chip. I’m angry at being made to feel a spoilsport for not being able to “look past” the choice issue to see the bigger picture. I’m angry that the choice issue isn’t a part of the bigger picture. I’m pissed that reproductive rights were compromised for something that falls far short of universal coverage. I’m really goddamn angry that Senators Nelson and Stupak think it’s any of their fucking business what I decide to do with my body. I’m unbelievably angry that this new legislation enshrines wealthy privilege by making it nearly impossible for any but the moneyed classes to get abortion coverage. But most of all, I’m angry that I don’t get to be joyful about this moment in history. I have great capacity for joy, y’all. I do. And I’m not trying to be sanctimonious about this – I know that many of you reading this share my discomfort with the restrictions on reproductive health, and are managing to be happy about this legislation anyway. And maybe as the days go by, I’ll get there, too. But this morning I’m just angry … and wishing I could look forward to a time when women’s bodies weren’t casualties in the battle for “greater” progressive gains.

Steal This Message

My friend J.B., father and longtime Democratic operative, is sending his kids to school tomorrow with the following permission slip:

“Despite the warnings of right-wing radio hosts, and fully cognizant that my daughter risks learning a lesson in civics, I, nonetheless, grant her permission to watch a televised address by the duly-elected leader of these United States, President Barack Obama, on the controversial subject of the importance of school.”

I so wish my kids were old enough that I could steal this for them.

This is the kind of thing that can make a squab come over all patriotic

If you haven’t seen this video of Bruce Springsteen, 89-year-old Pete Seeger and Seeger’s grandson leading hundreds of thousands of people on the National Mall in “This Land is Your Land,” you really need to watch it right now. It’s my favorite inaugural moment – first, because Pete Seeger is one of my personal heroes, second because I grew up singing this song at school, in church, at home and at political rallies, and third because they sing ALL the verses, and if you aren’t familiar with the lyrics, let me tell you, it is one pinko commie leftist subversive song, and you know I mean that as the highest praise. Really, watch: it will make you feel all warm inside.

Quote of the day

Atrios on the former (yesssss!) VP’s formal entrance onto the inaugural platform:

“Who invited Mr. Potter?”

Every silver lining has a cloud

So, not to rain on anyone’s parade, but how ’bout those shitty election outcomes all over the country? Yeah, I know – Obama’s election is huge, and it really did make me very extremely happy, and I’m hopeful about the presidency for the first time in a long time. BUT. WTF, California? Why you gotta hate on the lesbians and gays? What have they ever done to you, other than inject absolute SCADS of money into your state’s economy? And locally, I admit being completely unable to comprehend the reelection of Michele Bachmann, Erik Paulsen, and (possibly, but please Maude no) Norm Coleman. What the hell kind of blue state sends people like that to the nation’s capital?

Honestly, I don’t want to harsh anyone’s buzz – it’s important to celebrate Obama’s ascendancy. I get that. But I just hope that we don’t forget that, for all that Obama might make it possible to not be embarrassed to be an American again, there’s still a whole lotta fucked up shit around this country. A lot of racism, and homophobia, and sexism, and general ignorance and hatefulness and criminal ineptitude. Which is just to say … yeah, let’s enjoy the moment, but hoo, there’s still a whole lotta work to be done.